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Harvard is Launching a Center for Studying Happiness

The nature of happiness is one of the mysteries of human life, and now Harvard is devoting an inter-disciplinary center to understanding it.

Called the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, the new center — part of Harvard’s renowned public health school — will look at happiness in all its forms.

Psychologists and anthropologists will join biologists and doctors. Personal relationships and community ties will be looked at alongside insights into physical health.

Co-director Laura Kubzansky tells the Atlantic that the center will go beyond the folk wisdom that surrounds popular perceptions of happiness.

“Don’t worry, be happy” is a fine maxim until you’re trying to “systematically address [happiness] with policy, education, or community investment,” Kubzansky says. “Then it’s important to have an evidence base to suggest valid causal factors [that drive happiness].”

To that end, the center has stated that one of its first goals is to find a way of assessing psychological well-being in a “systematic and scientifically sound manner.” This would be a “happiness index,” perhaps reminiscent of the Gross National Happiness index that the mountainous kingdom of Bhutan is famous for.

With the Lee Kum Sheung Center, Harvard joins the University of Pennsylvania (and its Positive Psychology Center) in setting up an institution devoted to the good life.

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